“….I don’t think we are going to get on that boat, it’s leaving the dock… NOW!”
This is how our journey back to Puerto Rico’s mainland started after our week on a beautiful tropical island for our wedding & honeymoon. This is also how we learned that Vieques’ island life is not what we were used to back in the States. Things move more slowly, processes take longer, people are laid back — but for some reason, our ferry was in ‘Let’s get the ‘F’ out of here’ mode!
It’s Sunday morning — our last full day on Vieques, and we wanted to explore and take it all in before we had to go back to dreary, winterlike Wisconsin. We were staying at Tradewinds in Esperanza and checked out of our room early, since we had to be up at 6:00AM the next day to make sure we caught the ferry back to Fajardo. My parents had overheard that passengers were not allowed on the cargo ferry, so we just wanted to double check if that was true or not. Passengers are allowed, but we learned that it is just better to take the passenger ferry – things just work smoother.
Fast forward to bright and early Monday morning: it’s a bittersweet feeling leaving the place where I poured my heart out to my new husband. Our cab was to arrive at 7:25AM to take us to the ferry dock. On the dot, our cab arrived, but our driver had to do a thorough cleaning of the floorboards before we were allowed in the van. Andy and I were getting a touch nervous since the ferry was to leave at 8:30AM, and it is about a 15-20 minute drive to the other side of the island.
We finally made it to the ferry dock, with literally, minutes to spare. Or so we thought. The cars were being loaded onto the ferry. Only a short line of people waiting for tickets in front of us, so things were looking good …or so we thought (yet again). 8:00AM, still waiting in line, and the ticket window is not even open yet. But we are noticing people are already going through the gate and boarding the boat.
Ten minutes after 8:00AM, the window finally opens. Two women a couple people ahead of us were at the window. One of those women gets a ticket, the other, yelling in Spanish, in what I believe were not friendly words, storms away. The man in front of us gets up to the ticket window, talks sharply to the workers for quite a bit, then turns around to Andy and says the boat is full. He buys a ticket, for which I am guessing is for a later ferry. Andy gets up there and starts pleading our case, but the workers keep repeating, ‘Boat Full, Boat Full, FULL!’
I am standing behind, away from Andy, and the horn blows. Andy is still pleading, but now the boat is pulling away from the dock, and I know at this point that truly, the boat is full. Andy comes back and tells me that the ferry is at it’s max, and that we cannot get on it. I tell Andy to turn around and wave goodbye because that ferry we were supposed to be on – to be on time for everything else on our journey back home – is leaving.
What the hell do we do now??
Trying to keep our cool and not freak out over the ferry leaving was hard to do. We go in the dock lobby and run through our options. The next ferry was due to leave at 11:00AM, and our flight out of San Juan was leaving at 1:30PM. It is an hour drive, at best, from Fajardo to San Juan. There was no way we could pull that off! Andy got on the phone with AirTran to see if there was any possible way that we could take a later flight. But of course, the flight we were on was the last one of the day.
At this point in time I am thinking, “Sweet, we get another vacation day!”, but Andy was not seeing it this way. He calls Vieques Air Link, the only inter-island airline he remembers from looking them up before we left for vacation, trying to find the best price to get to Vieques. Luckily for us, they have 2 seats open for their 9:30AM flight from Vieques to San Juan International Airport – wahooo!!
Andy tells them that we will take the tickets, exchanges the information that they need, and we are told to hurry because you need to be there a half hour before the flight leaves. At this point, it is 8:45 in the morning, and we needed a taxi to get us to another side of the island. Our memories were on our side in this quick thinking pickle! We noticed a new taxi service on the island, with their catchy name: 741-TAXI. We called them and the driver said he would be on his way, ASAP, as he was just coming back from the airport after dropping off another couple from the ferry.
My stomach was starting to do it’s butterfly-nervous dance, because we were about to take a little plane, over the OCEAN, to get us to the international airport. 2012 was the year I broke my flying virginity, so flying was still very new to me. Honestly, I don’t think years of flying could prepare anyone for traveling in those tiny little planes. Andy, on the other hand, was ready for a new adventure!
Our taxi arrives, and we load up, and start heading over to the Vieques Airport. I’m shaking at this point. We check in, and it was the first time I ever lied in front of Andy… just a little white lie though. They ask for your weight–no way was I going to tell the truth in front of my new hubby! ;) We go and sit down in the waiting room. Like we were told on the phone, the plane was to leave at 9:30AM. So we wait, and wait, and wait some more. Apparently we were back on island time.
Finally our plane is able to load up, all 8 of us hop into this tiny aircraft, and I said to Andy, “If I was a pray-er, I’d be praying now!”. I just didn’t know how this little plane was able to get us to San Juan. Did I mention, we had to fly over the OCEAN?! Thanks ferries, I’m now in a small death trap some few hundred feet above, I really appreciate it!
In the end, the flight was actually pretty awesome, and it was neat to see the colors of the ocean closer than in the big aircrafts. Andy really enjoyed seeing parts of El Yunque from the air, too, though we both got a little motion sick. The real kicker of the trip? Being in the air, flying over the ocean, and we see the ferry boats crossing. Thanks again, ferries…
In the end, we made it to San Juan just fine, and we caught our flight with time to spare. We had quite the story to tell when we got back to our families. And with us, it was just another part of our adventures, mishaps and experience that make us, US!
Was there a time in your travels that you had to do something that you didn’t want to, but had to?